The Glorious Fun of Non-standard Tuning

Most guitars in the world are tuned in the standard way, indicating that the lowest sounding string is tuned to E, followed by A on the next higher string, from D to G to B to E again. This tuning has shown it’s used and works really well for many situations. But that does not have to mean that you may not experiment with different tunings.

tuning guitar to different tunings

Drop-D Tuning

One of the most common non-standard tunings in Drop-D tuning. Here all strings are tuned as in the regular tuning except for the lowest string which is lowered to a D note. This „dropping“ of the lowest string to a D note is the origin of its name. There are two reasons why this tuning is popular:

1.     The arrangement of the three lowest strings (D-A-D) spells a D power chord. So if you wanted to play it you could play it without your left hand. Every other power chord then is only slightly harder. You find the correct fret for the power chord and fret the lowest three strings on that fret. The corresponding frets are:
                        (E = 2, F = 3, G = 5, A = 7, B = 9 and C = 10).

2.     The second reason is the added range. With this extra-low D the guitar gets a bit deeper in pitch, which you may enjoy.

Open Chord Tuning

Another popular tuning, especially for slide guitar, is an open chord tuning. You could see it as an extension of the former idea only than now we tune all string so that they form one chord. A popular way to tune this is (again starting at the lowest string) D-G-D-G-B-D. And again if you use the first finger as a bar to fret all strings you can play any major chord you like if you find the corresponding fret.

The limitation for this tuning is that it‘s hard to play a minor chord. One possibility to avoid that is to tune is to a G minor chord ( D-G-D-G-Bb-D). Every time you want to play a major chord you can just add one finger on the second string one fret next to the slide or barred finger. This allows a quite simple switching between major and minor chords.

Two chord tuning

You don‘t have to stop here. You may think: I don‘t want to put that extra finger down and still have my major and minor chords available with only one finger. You can do that. Since there are six strings on the guitar and each chord in its basic form is made up of three notes you can arrange it so that (e.g. the lowest) three strings are tuned to a major chord and the other three strings are tuned to a minor chord. In fact, the highest three strings are already tuned to an E minor chord. To make a chord out of the open notes of the lower three strings you could simply lower the D note to a C#. Then you would have an A major chord on the lowest two strings.

The possibilities are vast. Perhaps you find a tuning that you enjoy. Have fun!

This article was written by René Kerkdyk – a professional guitar instructor living and teaching in Hildesheim, Germany. If you are looking for Guitar lessons in Hildesheim, look no further.